Tengku Zafrul, a man of all seasons

It is a sad day when the demands of life force us to put the bike aside. Be it moving on from childhood to adulthood or perhaps a change in lifestyle, and life gets too busy; no matter what the reason, we all die just a little bit on the inside when we can’t ride.

But giving in to lifestyle changes is not the same as giving up, just as a hiatus is exactly that if we returned to what makes us happy. And on this, we can take a lesson or two from one of Malaysia’s busiest corporate men - Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Aziz, Group Chief Executive of CIMB Group.

If you take into account that he is only 43 and has been a banker for over 20 years at distinguished institutions like Maybank Group, Citigroup Malaysia and Kenanga Holdings Berhad, you would quickly get the idea that he’s been quite the busy beaver. Then there are responsibilities away from CIMB like heading the Kuala Lumpur Business Club or being on the board of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority and Perbadanan PR1MA Malaysia. Not to mention, he is also an Honorary Commander of the Navy Volunteer Reserve under the Royal Malaysian Navy.

But somehow, Tengku Zafrul has kept his passion for sports, and his current foremost interest is cycling.

“My first cycling experience was in Bangsar where I grew up. I used to cycle nearly every afternoon around my neighbourhood with my brothers, friends and cousins. Although I never took cycling beyond a leisurely spin at that point, the skill would prove to come in useful later on.”

Sports figured heavily throughout his schooldays at Sekolah Sri Petaling, then across the street at Bukit Bintang Boys School, and later at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. “Sports has always been a part of my life. I played hockey at school and got involved in running on a recreational basis,” he adds.

It wasn’t long before Tengku Zafrul started to flirt with the idea of competing in a triathlon, his first being Xterra Malaysia. It was merely a taster and Tengku Zafrul continued to compete in a few more while also enjoying other sports. He admits however that if he wants to compete in more triathlons today he will need to work on his swimming technique.

“I cycled a bit in my first year at the University of Bristol as it was the cheapest way to get around (it still is). Unfortunately, that ended abruptly when my bicycle was stolen. I had not really cycled a lot since my last triathlon. I started cycling again to vary my workout before the Tokyo Marathon,” said Tengku Zafrul.

“These days, I leave home at 7am and only return at 11pm. My job takes up a lot of my time but I will always set aside time for family and sports, even if it requires me to sleep for only five hours a day. I also try to incorporate both running and cycling in my everyday life. Sometimes I run from home to the office. I cycle on weekends when I have more time to do longer excursions.”

Now if that isn’t dedication then nothing else is. But a glance at the man’s track record in marathons tells you that he’s into putting in the hours when it is required. Which is perhaps why we’re overjoyed that he has come back to pedal power. When we asked him what he thought of the cycling scene in Malaysia, he was of the opinion that it is catching on.

“Cycling is definitely growing in popularity. It gives me more of an adrenaline rush than any other sport. We at CIMB support cycling through our sponsorship of Azizulhasni and Fatehah, Malaysia’s Olympian cyclists. We hosted our first cycling event, the CIMB Cycle in Seri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan on 26 March 2017. Cycling has given me so much pleasure and I hope our event will provide a platform for people to have a taste of the sport.”

In a nutshell, Tengku Zafrul wants you to try cycling, if you haven't already. He’s a corporate titan doing a million and one things in the time it takes us to choose a pair of cycling shorts. So what’s your excuse?

Q&A

Now it’s the Pinarello F10. Used to be the Cervelo S5. It keeps changing!

It was the Cervelo R3 which I bought 10 years ago.

I try to cycle every weekend. Favourite spots: Genting Sempah, Genting Peres, Putrajaya, Latar and GCE.